Cass Clutchey

U of T’s New Medical Academy – Redundant, or Lifesaving?      May 2022

By Cass Clutchey

The University of Toronto’s new Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health (SAMIH) plan felt like it came out of nowhere. On March 22, 2022, a news release appeared promising “30 undergraduate and 45 postgraduate positions” by 2025 and 2027[1], thus solidifying a partnership with U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, and the government of Ontario. It’s location? University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

The problem is, the University of Toronto already has a medical school on its main campus that took in 4319 applications last year[2] and accepts an average of 8.3% of them[3]. So, why the need for another?

The SAMIH proposal has been pushed forward for the same reason that Ryerson and York University also announced new schools of medicine in their future on March 15, 2022, and February 16, 2022, respectively–COVID-19 exposed an open wound that is the clear deficit of medical professionals.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care identifies “specific postal codes” within Scarborough as areas of high physician need from Eglinton East all the way to Woburn[4] meaning there is a clear lack of medical care all over this side of the GTA. However, this problem is bigger than Scarborough–a shortage of doctors exists all over Ontario and has been a growing problem for years. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and a Health Care Experience survey exposed a chink in our infrastructure of at least 1 million Ontarians lacking regular access to primary healthcare in 2019[5].

It’s then no wonder that three different medical academies have been greenlit as quickly as they have. The real question isn’t whether these new building plans are redundant, it’s why it’s taken so long to expand in the first place.

“There has never been a more crucial time to address the unmet health care needs in Scarborough than right now,” said President and CEO of Scarborough Health Network Elizabeth Buller in the same news release that announced the plans for SAMIH. And she would be right–never has the disparity of doctors been felt more than in the past two years.

As of March 2022, a project rationale has been established, as well as a planning committee. A project planning report is currently underway for the University of Toronto’s governance approval process. One can only hope that this new academy will staunch the blood of doctor shortage in Scarborough.